Saturday, March 11, 2017
ABOUT THOSE PAINTINGS
Everything on Monday’s agenda was presented at the Agenda Session and commented on in blogs by Bernice, Dan, and myself. The one new item for Monday's meeting is that the Mayor has invited Anne Robinson, immediate past president of the Library Board to make a "brief presentation”.
Her subject is not listed on the agenda. Could it be a plea for more funds for the Library? Or perhaps an explanation of the Library's role under the new director. There is a possibility that she may discuss how the Library sold some of its cultural treasures in the past to raise money that the City did not supply.
Or could her presentation be used to justify selling the paintings? I have learned that this was not a recent decision to fund the Mayor's pet project. Indeed in October 2016 appraisals for “insurance” purposes were obtain from Cristies, Sotheby’s and James Maroney... There were tremendous differences in the quotes on both paintings ranging from 850K to 15 mil. Also the “Columbus “painting that received the highest estimate of all on Maroney’s estimate was by far the lowest on both of that of the auction houses. Intriguely Sotheby’s quote is marked “private sale”.
Although Monday the Mayor had said that he was forming a commission that will report back in 6 months to study the funding of his plan and the sale of the pictures; on Feb 24th 2017 the Law firm of Rainone Coughlin Minchello filed a 55 page document with the Superior Court in Elizabeth asking to amend the Trust donating the pictures to permit their sale. This as apparently may have been done without Council awareness since there has been no resolution presented to authorizing their sale.
The briefs use the “Cy pres” doctrine to justify their request. Cy pres permits the Courts to amend a trust “when the original objective of the settlor or the testator became impossible, impracticable, or illegal to perform,”
In the past I have questioned the legal (attorney’s) costs to the city. Minchello is the Corporation Counsel is it ethical for him as a member of a law firm to do legal work for the City? In February the Council approved R84-17 for $65,000 to Rainone Coughlin Minchello LLC as Litigation Counsel.
How can we justify a city employee directing income producing work to his private firm? Why has no one on our Council questioned this?